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Chinese workers and labour protests
December 6, 2013 - 13:15-15:00
Guest lectures on Chinese workers and labour protests by Suet Wah Choi and Parry P. Leung
Titles and abstracts of the talks:
The story of Migrant Women Workers in Pearl River Delta
Suet Wah Choi
Since the open up and reform of China in 80s’, cheap labor is needed for the manufacturing industry at the coastal cities to take up the low value-added, labor intensive assembly line work. Thousands and thousands of peasants migrated to the Pearl River Delta without citizen identity which means that they cannot enjoy any social welfare in the city but can only work as migrant workers. According to the official, there are over 260 millions migrant workers in the country, 36 million, equals to 1/7 of the total migrants population, are working in the Guangdong province. 60% of migrant workers are women and most of them are working in factories. The young women come to a strange city from the rural where they are familiar with, living in awful dormitory, having poor food in the canteen, working repeatedly on the boring assembly line day by day, facing great pressure of quota from the management, and wasting their youth-hood for meager salary. Some of them lost their fingers and hands, their health and even their lives. Their bodies are ruled not only in their working hours, but also in the dormitory system. What a scene is it like? Under the predominant policy “socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics”, collaboration of the power and the capital is undisguised. Every single migrant woman worker is just nobody who drowns in the GDP and FDI. Nevertheless, women workers we have met in the industrial zone in the past 17 years told us that they are not nobody through their resistance in the everyday lives. They use their own creative ways to response to patriarchy suppression, capitalist exploitation and political oppression. They might not be a leader in a strike, but they are always in the frontline of a protest. They might be voiceless sometimes, but they always try to voice out when there is chance. They might be seen as powerless people, but they always carry through firmly to the end in a flight. What a scene is it like? Migrant women workers create a special landscape in China on their own way, sometimes they fail and sometimes they success, but it is always with hope.
Understanding Labor Strikes in China: The Story of Jewelry Worker Activists in Pearl River Delta
Parry P. Leung
The new working class of China actively strives to alter their fate through labor struggles. In the past ten years, there have been abundant studies documenting their resistance and protest against the capitalist exploitation, particularly in the form of industrial strikes. Such collective actions have often been regarded as “unorganized and spontaneous”, and “with only legal consciousness but no class consciousness”. However, through close examination of several factory strikes in the jewelry and watch sector of the Pearl River Delta, it is found that such description is not entirely accurate. My study reveals that the key factor determining the occurrence and development of any strikes rests upon the “worker activists” who facilitate the strikes. Their experience and vision has helped this new working class conquer a new ground in terms of its organizing capacity and action deployment.
Suet Wah Choi has a MA in cultural studies from Lingnan University and is since 2006 chief coordinator for the Chinese Women Workers Network (CWWN) in Hong Kong.
Parry P. Leung got his Ph.D in social science from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and is currently a research associate at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University as well as Chair of SACOM (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour) 2005-2013.
Venue: The Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies at Lund University, Scheelevägen 15B, Room Alfa 1010